10 Ways to Boost Your Brain Health This Week

  • Photo by J.Gatherum/Shutterstock
    "We think technology can actually train our brains to confront mental challenges with ease."—Gary Small, MD, UCLA Longevity Center Photo by J.Gatherum/Shutterstock
  • Meghan Rabbitt

Improve memory, focus, and cognition with these simple strategies from one of the country’s leading experts on longevity.

Of all of the concerns on your mind, your mind likely ranks lowest among them. After all, client meetings, board commitments, and family dynamics probably seem much more urgent than what you can be doing to heighten your brain health as you get older. There is a reason for that, says Gary Small, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at the UCLA Longevity Center. “Our brains aren’t wired to think too far into the future—they are wired for the here and now,” he says. “The good news is that the most effective brain-health boosters will not only help keep you sharper as you get older, but they will also make you feel good immediately.” Here Dr. Small shares the 10 best tactics to help build brain power with every birthday.

1. Embrace technology. A surprising upside of our devotion to high-tech devices has recently come to light: In a study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, Dr. Small measured the brain activity of older adults as they searched the Internet and found that those who were web savvy had more than twice the neural activation of those with minimal computer experience. “We think technology can actually train our brains to confront mental challenges with ease,” he says.

2. Have a 10-minute conversation. Whether you call a friend, walk over to a colleague’s desk rather than e-mail him or her, or make a point to have a lively conversation during dinner, Small says having even a short conversation can improve your memory and focus: “Social interaction itself has a positive effect on the brain, plus it can reduce stress—another boon to brain health.”

3. Keep stress in check. While it is unrealistic to strive to never feel frazzled, finding ways to manage the stress that life will inevitably bring is crucial. “Stress actually shrinks the memory centers of the brain,” says Dr. Small. “And cortisol, the stress hormone, has been shown to cause temporary memory impairment.” Consider meditation, yoga, or simply prioritizing 30 minutes of private time every day. Find a calming activity and make it part of your daily routine.

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